Revision 1 as of 2012-04-01 02:56:49

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Call for Action

At March 28, 2012, Jason Warner, Ubuntu Desktop Manager at Canonical Ltd., published a "Call for Topics" for Ubuntu 12.10 in the ubuntu-desktop mailing list.

This is an Opportunity

This is an opportunity to drive RTL considerations deep into the considerations of Ubuntu developers and particularly Ayatana developers.

It would be great if RTL could be represented at UDS.


March 28th to April 30th: Discussions in the list.

May 1st to UDS: Desktop Team will present a review of topics in form of approved blueprints.

May 7th to May 11th: Ubuntu Developer Summit

Approx. two weeks post UDS: Desktop Team presents the 12.10 Plan Review

Our Topic Request

Here is a suggested Call for Topic to send to the ubuntu-desktop mailing list:

--- snip ---

Subject: [Desktop12.10-Topic] RTL support from the ground up

Dear Friends,

Users of right to left (RTL) languages (locales) need their GUI's to perform mirroring. A good explanation of this is in the Chromium project[1].

This support is usually delivered by the GUI toolkit so that developers of applications don't have to do much about it. GTK+ and Qt have sufficient RTL support.

How many RTL users are there? Popcon from Sat Mar 31 07:17:47 2012 UTC:
language-pack-ar 22622
language-pack-he 11380
language-pack-fa 6294
language-pack-ur 4362
language-pack-dv 3736
language-pack-yi 3600
language-pack-ug 3303
language-pack-sd 2970
language-pack-ps 2136
language-pack-ks 1728
Total 62131

Obviously, this number does not reflect the actual number of Ubuntu RTL users. One, less obvious reason for why it does not, is that many of the RTL users choose to set their Ubuntu Desktop language to an LTR language. This would mostly be a second language for them, like, English, for example. I would say that the vast majority of the more technical users do this.

Even though Ubuntu has some RTL bugs[2], users have enjoyed a reasonably consistent RTL experience... until Unity came along.

Unity, with it's underlying toolkit, Nux, don't have RTL mirroring support[3]. This means that RTL users get Unity rendered LTR while the rest of the desktop is RTL. Here's a screenshot[4].

Notice that, as explained in the Chromium project page that is linked above, in Nautilus, elements which are usually on the left, or aligned to the left, are now aligned to the right. That is how it would be in other GTK+ and Qt applications and Firefox and LibreOffice. Notice that Unity is still on the left side and that the panel is also exactly like in LTR.

We, at the Ubuntu RTL Team[5], are both trying to fix this bug and, in the meantime, in order to provide a sane situation in precise, we are working on a fallback[6] from Unity to Unity 2D, which does already support RTL (because it is based on Qt).

This bug in Unity should never have happened. RTL mirroring should have been included in the beginning of Unity's development. And the RTL users should have been participatory.

This mistake was also done in Android, giving birth to the most popular issue on the tracker[7]. Android development is not open to the public. We don't have this excuse.

In order to keep RTL users happy what is needed is awareness to the needs of these special languages, the RTL languages, throughout the development process. We, at the Ubuntu RTL Team, are here to help and take part.

  1. http://www.chromium.org/developers/design-documents/ui-mirroring-infrastructure

  2. https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+bugs?field.tag=rtl

  3. https://bugs.launchpad.net/unity/+bug/654988

  4. https://bugs.launchpad.net/unity/+bug/654988/+attachment/2979647/+files/screenshot.png

  5. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/RTLTeam

  6. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/RTLTEAM/FallBackToUnity2D

  7. https://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=5597&sort=-stars

Thanks and Blessings,
Shahar and the RTL Team

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